Rihla Book 13

Andalucia 1349 - 1350

A short trip to the Frontier in Andalucia

Rihla 13, 1349
Tangier 1349

The Bay of Tangier at night.
Photo: Aires Santos, BMI- trekearth.com

After I had been privileged to observe this noble majesty and to share in the all-embracing bounty of his beneficence, I set out to visit the tomb of my mother. I arrived at my home town of Tangier and visited her grave, and went on to the town of Sabta [Ceuta].

Rihla 13, 1349
Sabta-Ceuta 1349

The Bay of Ceuta
Photo Xavier A. Rivera, Panoramio

I stayed for some months in Sabta [Ceuta], because I suffered from an illness for three months, but after-wards God restored me to health.

I then proposed to take part in the jihad and the defence of the frontier, so I crossed the sea from Ceuta in a barque belonging to the people of Asila [Arzila], and reached the land of Andalusia (may God Almighty guard her!)

This was after the death of the Christian tyrant Adfunus [Alphonso XI.] and his ten-months' siege of the Jebel [Gibraltar], when he thought that he would capture all that the Muslims still retain of Andalusia; but God took him whence he did not reckon, and he, who of all men stood in the most mortal terror of the plague, died of it.

Rihla 13, 1349-1350
Jebel Tariq, The Mount of Conquest, Gibraltar 1349/50

Aerial Photo of the Rock of Gibraltar, Ceuta on the African Coast in the distance.
Photo virtualtourist.com

The first place in Andalusia that I reached was the Mount of Conquest, the citadel of Islam, an obstruction stuck in the throats of the infidels.

I walked around the mountain and saw the marvellous works executed on it by our master [the late Sultan of Morocco] Abu'l-Hasan and the armament with which he equipped it, together with the additions made by our master [Abu 'Inan], may God strengthen him, and I should have liked to remain as one of its defenders to the end of my days.

From here began the great conquest [of Spain by the Arabs], and at it disembarked Tariq ibn Ziyad, the freedman of Musa ibn Nusayr in 711. Its name is linked with his, and it is called Jebel Tariq [The Mount of Tariq]. The remains of the walls built by Tariq and his army are still in existence; they are known as the Wall of the Arabs, and I myself have seen them during my stay there at the time of the siege of Algeciras (may God restore it to Islam [Algeciras would soon fall to the Christian Requistadores].

I went out of Gibraltarto the town of Ronda.

Rihla 13 1349-1350

Ronda, the bridge connecting its two parts
Photo igreens.org.uk

Ronda is one of the strongest and most beautifully situated fortresses of the Muslims. The qadi there was my cousin, the doctor Abu'l-Qasim Muhammad b. Yahya Ibn Battuta. I stayed at Ronda for five days, then went on to the town of Marbala [Marbella].

After his parents' deaths and his long absence this visit to his cousin was probably the main reason for Battuta's short trip to Al-Andalus. - I cannot see him defending Gibraltar, but during the siege of Alceiras this vow was good propaganda for himself and his benefactor in Fez.

Rihla 13, 1349-1350

The town of Marbella from the beach
Photo marbellaandalucia.com

From Ronda I went on to the town of Marbala [Marbella]. The road between these two places is difficult and exceedingly rough. Marbala is a pretty little town in a fertile district. I found there a company of horsemen setting out for Malaqa, and intended to go in their company, but God by His grace preserved me, for they went on ahead of me and were captured on the way by the Christians.

I set out after them, and when I had traversed the district of Marbala, and entered the diftrict of Suhayl I passed a dead horse lying in the ditch, and a little farther on a pannier of fish thrown on the ground. This aroused my suspicions. In front of me there was a watchtower, and I said to myself, "If an enemy were to appear here, the man on the tower would give the alarm." So I went on to a house thereabouts.

There they tell him of the fate of the horsemen he had wanted to join. - A little drama to liven up his account.

...The Christians had killed one of them, one had escaped, and ten were taken prisoner. A fisherman was killed along with them, and it was he whose basket I had found lying on the road.

On the morrow the guard rode with me and we reached Malaqa [Malaga]

Rihla 13, 1349-1350

Malaga today. The big circular structure is the bull ring.
Photo europeancheaoflights.com

Malaqa is one of the largest and most beautiful towns of Andalusia. It unites the conveniences of both sea and land, and is abundantly supplied with foodstuffs and fruits. I saw grapes being sold in its bazaars at the rate of eight pounds for a small dirham, and its ruby-coloured Murcian pomegranates have no equal. As for figs and almonds, they are exported from Malaqa and its outlying districts to the lands both of the East and the West.

At Malaqa they manufacture excellent gilded pottery, which is exported thence to the most distant lands. Its mosque covers a large area and has a reputation for sanctity; the court of the mosque is of unequalled beauty, and contains exceptionally tall orange trees.

I found the qadi sitting in the great mosque, along with the doctors of the law and the principal inhabitants, all engaged in collecting money to ransom the prisoners of whom we have spoken.

Thence I went to on the city of Gharnata [Granada] the metropolis of Andalusia and the bride of its cities.

Rihla 13, 1349-1350

House in the former Arab quarter of Granada. The oldest part of the Alhambra is visible in the background.
Photo RWFG

Granada is surrounded on every side by orchards, gardens, flowery meads, noble buildings, and vineyards. One of the most beautiful places there is 'Ayn ad-dama' [the Fountain of Tears, Adinamar], which is a hill covered with gardens and orchards

The king of Gharnata at the time of my visit was Sultan Abu'l-Hajjaj Yusuf. I did not meet him on account of an illness [as a consequence he did not see the Alhambra from the inside].

I met at Gharnata a number of its distinguished scholars and the principal Shaykh, who is also the superior of the Sufi orders. Among them is a company of Persian darwishes, who have made their homes there because of its resemblance to their native lands. One is from Samarqand, another from Tabriz, a third from Quniya [Konia], one from Khurasan, two from India, and so on.

On leaving Gharnata I travelled back through Malaqa, Ronda and on to Gibraltar, where I embarked on the ship by which I had crossed before.

The Rihla 1349

Marrakesh, the Koutubiya after the rain
Photo Le Casablancais Panoramio

The souks of Marrakech
Photo Roger-11, Panoramio

Marrakush is one of the most beautiful of cities, spaciously built and extending over a wide area, with abundant supplies. It contains magnificent mosques, such as its principal mosque, known as the Mosque of the Kutubiyin [the Booksellers]. There is a marvellously tall minaret there; I climbed it and obtained a view of the whole town from it.

The town is now largely in ruins, so that I could compare it only to Baghdad, though the bazaars in Baghdad are finer.